Monday, January 23, 2012

The Spy, Time Riders, Clementine, and the Year of the Dragon!!!

Happy Chinese New Year. Now all of us who have been procrastinating getting started on our New Year's goals can start, and even though we're late, we can claim that we are just being "cultured".

No, seriously. This week has been busy for me. Work has been hectic, we're training 1,2,3,4,no, 5! Yeah, 5 new people. Replacements for people who have gotten fired, quit, disappeared into a bottle, who knows(and no, I don't mean like a genie). So good news for Obama. The government under him can claim five more new jobs. That's what the government does, by the way. They record how many people we hire in a year, but not how many end their employment in that same time period. Then they report to their superiors that there are new jobs being created.

And we wonder what's wrong with our government.

I managed to write two more chapters in my current project, Kelekot. It wasn't all that I wanted to get done, but I did manage to write a really cool scene, so I'm happy with it.

I finally got around to reading The Spy by Clive Cussler. I say finally because, like many of my books, I get them when I see them, but then they go on my reading list which is, give or take, some 50-75 books long at any given time. Trying to work to cut it down, but I'm not really making progress there.
Anyway, The Spy is the third installment in the Isaac Bell series, about a Pinkerton-style detective in the early 1900's. The first two books took place in 1906 and 1907, and traveled all over the railroads that made this country the industrial giant it became. In book three Bell departs from the railroads, and the book focuses on the dreadnought race unfolding among the nations of the world. President Roosevelt has sent the Great White Fleet around the world, but most know that it is already obsolete. Europe is gearing up for war, and new and ever more impressive designs of battleships are being developed.

But someone is killing off the great minds behind the development in America, making them look like accidents. But Bell is not convinced. He sets about an investigation that will cross the nation and bring him back again to New York, and to the street gangs that run it. Time is running out and he has got to find the person, the spy, that is behind all these murders and stop him.

Really good read. I love all of them. Cussler blends a great story with a part of American history that is so rich in heritage that it makes for a fantastic adventure.

Time Riders by Alex Scarrow, I wish I could say, was as good. When I first saw Time Riders, I was excited. It sounded so cool. But, as the feather duster in Disney's Beauty and the Beast states, "I've been burned by you before." So, I downloaded the sample chapters on my nook. And loved it. Absolutely. The beginning was so strong, I was stoked. So I downloaded the rest, and, well. I was a little disappointed. Don't get me wrong. This is a good book. It just wasn't the great book that I thought it was going to be. It got a little dry through the middle, some of the time travel stuff didn't make sense, and I kind of got tired of the characters that seemed a little shallow.

It's about three kids, all from different times. All of them, seconds before they are to die, are recruited to join this top-secret agency that polices time.

Just as they are recruited however, someone from the future decides to go back in time and teach Hitler the error of his ways. This in turn allows the Nazis to win and history to dramatically change. The race is on. The three of them must find the moment when time was tampered with, find the one who did the tampering, and eliminate him. Period.

There were a lot of things I did like from this book. Elements of The Time Machine, with a morlock-like civilization, a look at what might have happened if Hitler hadn't made the mistakes he did, and, of course, a character that takes on a surprising similarity to Captain America.

So, it was a good book. It's not long, and the story is cohesive and entertaining, if not amazing. I feel bad judging it like that, but it's the way I feel.

The third book I read was Clementine, by Cherie Priest. Fun book, entertaining, and full of steampunky goodness.
The story follows Captain Croggon Hainey as he struggles to regain command of his dirigible that was stolen in Boneshaker, the first book in Priest's Clockwork Century Series. It's a great story of sky pirates, Pinkerton detectives, and an alternate look at the American Civil War, one in which the south manages to create a twenty-something year stalemate. Very cool.

This was a solid adventure story. The characters were strong, and I liked it more than the first book, Boneshaker. The pacing was better and the book moved. Had a lot of fun with it. Moving on to the third book, Dreadnought, this week. More to come.

Off to work now, seize the day and all that. This is the year of the dragon though, so at least that's something to look forward to.

Good hunting.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gaining Momentum

Newton's first law states that a body in motion remains in motion and a body at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Recently a third grader was asked to cite Newton's first law, she said, "Bodies in motion remain in motion, and bodies at rest stay in bed unless their mothers call them to get up."

No, seriously. It's true though. Sometimes it gets too easy to just hit the snooze button and skate through life on auto pilot. I know I've been guilty of it more than a few times in my life. Why is it so hard sometimes to see the benefits?

I've done really well this week. The first week of the new year was a bumpy start, I had a million things to get done and, well. Goals fell by the wayside. Still, I managed to salvage the tail end of last week and hammer out the prologue of the project I'm currently working on. I even got to the gym once.

I think making the decision to do what I could, even if it wasn't all that I had wanted to accomplish, made all the difference. Doing something, however small, begets enthusiasm. Ergo, momentum. Doing nothing on the other hand brings only shame and depression, which leads to more of the same, and the conundrum that goes with that.

This week I hit the ground running, using the momentum gained last week to spur me on. I've notched 3 chapters so far this week and gotten to the gym every day. The project I'm working on is starting to come together and I can't wait to see how it turns out. I'm going to really try to push on it in the next 2-3 weeks and attempt to finish it up by the end of February at the latest. Hopefully by the end of January, but that might be a little too ambitious. Still, momentum. The thing about momentum is that it gains power the longer it builds. To better illustrate this point watch the inspirational video below:

Now, that being said, look for a way today to do just a little more. Take 5 minutes if that's all you have, but put it towards something that you've been meaning to do but just never quite seem to be able to get around to. Chances are you won't miss the 5 minutes, and it could make all the difference. And remember, motion and momentum lead to more of the same. It could get to be an addicting habit that can change your life for the better.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Well it's 2012. A new year and a new start, and all that jazz. And a good year to get things done in, if the Aztec or Mayan calender or whatever is to be believed. Not that I do. I mean, yeah, one can read ominous predictions in the sudden stopping of the calendar, but hey. Think about it. Apple can't even make an iPhone that stays caught up in technology for more than a few years. They made a calendar that lasted this far. Pretty good, especially carving it in stone and all that.

Reading this year has gotten off to an awesome start. I love it when that happens. It can set the tone for the whole year. Last year in January I read Beastly, by Alex Flinn, and was blown away by how good it was. This year I chose to turn to the YA genre again and was not disappointed.

The book Unwind by Neal Shusterman is in a word, compelling. To be honest, I had heard good things about it, read some good reviews on goodreads, and was generally excited.

Until I started reading it.

Don't take that the wrong way. I loved the book. I just had no idea how hard a book it would be to read.

The story follows three teens in a dystopian look at an American future. In it, a second civil war has been fought and waged over the issue of abortion. On one side, pro-life, on the other, pro-choice, and in the middle and desperately trying to hang on and put the pieces back together, the remains of the government. The war was ended finally when a new technology was developed, one which allowed the use of every cell of an organ donor. And one that would allow the donor to live on, or so they argued, just in a different form.

Suddenly the bill of life is passed, and the war is over. Abortion is a thing of the past. No longer legal, children are born that might not otherwise be. The compromise is that between the ages of 13 and 18 parents can elect to have their children "unwound". The process does not violate the pro-life stance, as they technically continue to "live" just in another form.

As I started reading this, I was incredulous. As a parent I just couldn't imagine how people could go for something like that. But here's where the book succeeds.

It made me believe it.

Yes, even with my doubts that a society could ever do something like that, it brought it home. The book scores on another level. As it starts, following three teens that are scheduled to be unwound and go on the run to escape their ghastly fate, I thought the book was more of a social commentary. One that would ramble, telling the stories of these three in an attempt to get the reader to think about it, and that would more or less be it. And while the story was a thought provoking moral commentary, here's where it surprised me.

The story was fantastic.

Though seemingly random at first, the author brings all the strings together in ways that I didn't see coming. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it's on a level with The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It is that good. So if you're looking to kick your new year's reading off with a bang and you think you can handle it, read this. You won't regret it.

I've also been getting into Celtic music on Pandora lately. Particularly the group The High Kings. They're the ones that do this awesome song in Sherlock Holmes:

Doesn't get much better than that. But I better get back to work. Working on a steampunk project, and I can't wait to see how it turns out.